ABILENE Texas (KTAB/KRBC)- The Matera Paper company fire of 2012 was one of the largest commercial fires in Abilene’s history. When the buildings then 105 year old walls fell all all that was left was the vault, and the basement. Recently it was discovered that one other piece of memorabilia survived the destruction as well.

“Matera Paper Company” Neon sign sits in the Day Sign Company Back lot (2021)

Just before the fateful day of the fire the property owners had taken the neon “Matera Paper company” sign to be worked on at the Day Sign Company.

“I was  told the sign had been destroyed or it was no longer around so i never even knew to look for it.” Says SoDA district property owner Tim Smith

A friend that collects old signage came across the piece earlier this month and informed Tim right away.

“To think oh man that’s sad that it’s gone to oh its here, it’s still in Abilene. let’s get it back home” Smith said.

Smith first aquired the lot in 2017. He says it was an uphill battle to preserve the history of the area.

“I realized that if we were going to actually create a district here this property needed to be the cornerstone of the SODA district” He commented.

He and his team worked to ensure that what little history survived the fire, wouldn’t be lost to time

“I wanted to blend the history with the new purpose of the building” Said Smith.

The historic romanesque building was constructed as the headquarters for J.M Radford grocery supply in 1907.

Radford was a well known businessman of the time. Having constructed and owning many of the buildings in the area. It is him for which we owe the namesake of many Abilene locations, according to Abilene historian Jay Moore.

“Radford auditorium at mcmurry, radford hills, radford street.” Moore says.

Smith wanted to ensure that the Matera story in Abilene got the same treatment. Leaving a legacy and a conversation starter.

“I just think it adds an element of interest to the property… and people will know that this was Matera paper company for many years” Commented Smith.

“It just drives home that connection that you have with your home town because you know more about it. Tim’s got a great love for the history of Abilene so I’m not surprised he would do it that way.” Moore added.